Israel beats Mexico 12-5 to keep Olympic baseball hopes alive

The blue-and-whites use a blowout victory to squeak into the next round of play.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel’s medal hopes in baseball stayed alive Sunday morning as the team got its first victory in the Tokyo Olympics, beating Mexico 12-5 to stay alive in the knockout round of play.

The first inning already had its share of excitement, as with runners on second and third, Israel scored a run on a Nick Rickles single but the Mexican left fielder threw out back-end runner Ryan Lavarnway at the plate.

Israel then thought it had broken the game open in the third when Danny Valencia hit his second home run of the Games, a three-run shot to left field, followed by another single by Rickles that scored two more runs.

Mexico didn’t lie down, though, coming back with four of its own in the bottom of the inning with several doubles sandwiched around three stolen bases, a wild pitch and a single. The Central Americans then made it 6-5 in the sixth with a double, a wild pitch and an RBI single.

Israel made it a laugher finally in the seventh, batting around the order and scoring six runs, all but one of them coming with two out. Ian Kinsler led off with a double and moved to third on a Valencia single. After a Lavarnway strikeout, Gailen Blake then singled to right, bringing in Kinsler. Rickles harmlessly struck out, but then with bases loaded, back-to-back singles by Mitch Glasser and Zack Penprase brought in four runs. Penprase then stole second, which proved valuable when Scotty Burcham doubled him easily home for the final run.

The win keeps the blue-and-whites in the Games, with Mexico going home as it lost all three of its contests. Israel’s slate is cleared and starting Monday it will play at least two more games in the next round, which is set up in a double-elimination format.

Israel still has an uphill road to climb to a medal, as it has already been beaten by the other teams in its pool in the first round. The team lost a nailbiter against South Korea, where it went ahead twice by two runs but needed the heroics of former MLB catcher Lavarnway in the ninth, when he hit his second homer of the game to tie the score at 5-5. Heartbreakingly, the blue-and-whites lost it in the10th when newly installed reliever Jeremy Bleich hit two batters in a row, bringing in the winning run.

The second game, against the U.S., was tight for several innings but a 3-1 American lead grew in dribs and drabs until the final score of 8-1. Israel has also lost its ace, former Reds pitcher Jon Moscot, who threw only nine pitches in the game against S. Korea before feeling something go in his pitching arm.